Over the last couple weeks, we have mentioned the Rule 5 draft here and there as the Cubs front office sorted and cleaned up their 40 man roster ahead of the Winter Meetings. Generally speaking, the key is to protect Rule 5 draft eligible prospects and players that have shown enough promise or potential that other teams would be wanting to pluck away through the draft. Players left off of the 40 man roster after four or five years since being signed (depending on their age at signing) are exposed to the draft.
Matt Szczur, Logan Watkins, Junior Lake, and Trey McNutt are examples of names that the Cubs office have protected by including them on the 40 man roster.
The Rule 5 draft order is set the same as the order of the amateur draft held in June. Based on the Cubs record last season, the Cubs got to select second this morning for the Rule 5 and will do again come June.
At the Winter Meetings, there had been comment from the front office that teams had approached the Cubs about possible trades. Typically teams trade cash or a player to be named later to have the team with a high draft pick slot take a player of the trading team’s choosing. One example was the 2006 Rule 5 draft in which Jim Hendry selected Josh Hamilton with an agreement already in place to sell Hamilton to the Reds.
The Cubs selected righty Hector Rondon from Cleveland. He has pretty much exclusively been used as a starting pitcher in the Indians system. The “catch” with Rule 5 selections is that the selected player must remain on the 25 man roster of the drafting team for the entire season. As of this morning, there has yet to be any word that the Cubs made the selection with a trade agreement in place. This may not necessarily mean that there are no interested teams, as we are now use to the Cubs front office being very tight lipped.
If the Cubs are planning to keep Rondon, he figures to be thrown into the mix for starting pitching depth. If the 24 year old does not crack the rotation come Opening Day, the Cubs could try to stash him in the bullpen as a long relief option if they are intent on keeping the Rule 5 draftee. For what it is worth, the Cubs basically did the same thing with Lendy Castillo (pictured), who they took with the sixth pick in last year’s draft from the Phillies.
The selection of Rondon was not the only transaction involving the Cubs. Chicago also lost Starlin Peralta to the Diamondbacks. It now appears the Cubs chances of having two Starlins at Wrigley Field are out the window. On a serious note, Peralta was also pretty much exclusively a starting pitcher. He had been in the Cubs system since 2008, but has yet to get past A level ball in Peoria. It will be interesting to see if the Diamondbacks are able to keep him on their Major League throughout the season.
Even more interesting is how these two names will pan out in a few years. Will either or both look back and be considered a Rule 5 notable like Johan Santana or Joakim Soria?